Junior employees more likely to fail in remote
Are we implementing work-from-home the right way for junior employees and GenZ workers?
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I have a pretty strong interest in how GenZ is driving trends in the future of work. The work from home movement has reshaped the popularity and scale of remote work to such an extent that some companies have gone fully remote.
A Hacker News article is trending today and it caught my attention, you can read some of the comments here. I’m going to discuss some of angle of the article that stirred the debate.
During the pandemic some corporate leaders were warning that remote work is failing young employees. This is because it’s harder to mentor, learn and be a sponge to the corporate culture and (formal and informal) cross-talk between departments at home.
Our Understanding of Talent Retention and Remote Work is Evolving in 2022
I have a live LinkedIn poll about it here. I’m really interested in interactive content and how our experience of the WFH vs. RTO debate has evolved over some time and with more data.
While GenZ and younger workers clearly have a preference for remote work, in terms of pay and learning opportunities could they be shooting themselves in the foot? Or are organizations penalizing them due to a poor implementation of on-boarding at fully remote companies?
Worrying to GenZ workers, Google is one of several notable tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter, that has enacted controversial plans to lower pay for remote workers who've moved away from the expensive areas where their headquarters are located. This is clearly pretty harsh discrimination for the perk of added worker flexibility. Or is this just an RTO tactic at scale?
But how can we set up junior employees for success in remote?
Junior employees thrive among teams that embrace them, mentor them, and where they have the maximum ability to learn and grow and be heard. Some WFH or fully remote companies may not be able to facilitate this easily or fully.
This may result to a prolongation of the “Great Resignation” where higher and higher percentages of employees plan to quit their job in the next six months. As companies force employees to conform to their hybrid work setup or a full-on return to the office, talent will continue to jump ship accordingly. Some GenZ workers might even discover fully distributed remote companies with WFH are not for them!
While every company and every worker is different, what we can we learn from this?
GenZ Workers have Sustained a Prolonged Great Resignation
If you were a new employee at a company in the pandemic or fully WFH remote era, you may have had a completely different experience. We may be penalizing GenZ workers in this negotiation and poor implementation of hybrid work and remote work, causing them to start the trend of the Great Reshuffle at scale.
Research during the pandemic tended to show and demonstrate that many younger employees are feeling (and felt) increasingly disconnected and less committed to their jobs while working from home. At some companies who have gone fully remote there’s been a noticeable shift in the culture where even leadership is portrayed and experienced differently without a higher frequency of face-to-face connection.
Have we Failed GenZ Workers to thrive in Remote positions?
It's really expensive to hire a junior employee just to set them up to fail. We have to assume it's not intentional.
According to Slite’s blog, it takes a certain kind of GenZ worker to truly thrive in remote work at a new company.
They argue, team members in an async company need to be doers, drivers and promoters of their own work. As you can imagine, this could discriminate against GenZ women the most and favor some personality types over others.
But does it mean top talent won’t thrive in a remote setting? Not exactly. Most of the top performers in a remote setting (at least with software engineering) are usually also a top performer in an office setting.
For new talent, access to mentorship, learning and fast and effective on-boarding may be hampered in a fully remote company or WFH.
Are We Failing in Mentorship Without Face to Face?
Training and upskilling junior employees in remote is not impossible, but it is more challenging than IRL. Top performers however, may need less of this to adjust and thrive to get into the groove of their new position.
It’s clear to others that remote has been toxic to productivity in all sorts of companies and for all sorts of people. There’s been a definite backlash against fully remote in some camps and among some groups of corporate leaders and even GenZ workers. This has likely been because we haven’t implemented mentorship, learning and on-boarding very well in this context yet both from a human and software level.
Is Async More suited for Software Engineers?
We have to assume that for software engineering, I think there's in general a "personality type" that does really well with remote in a certain kind of job and thrives with fairly asynchronous disconnected tasks is to be expected, but for other departments and in some industries this simply just isn’t the case.
We may realize what common sense told us all along, that Async is for more than engineers, or is something else going on here? GenZ talent will lead the way, as industries adjust and the WFH and RTO debate refines itself in the real world.
It seems poor leadership and poor existing teamwork generally gets worse when teams and departments went fully-remote. Hybrid work may be necessary to balance things out in the majority of situations for most industries.
Whether cubicles or open-floor plans, the office is still seen as fairly hostile for many GenZ Workers regardless, offering them more flexibility to do remote work and hybrid week schedules is usually going to make them happier to some extent, but does it make them more productive too?
Mentorship, GenZ and the Great Reshuffle
Helping recent graduates and young Gen Z employees thrive is essential to innovative companies, as they are a significant part of critical leading in the future. Yet it is clear many industries and companies continue to fail in retaining talent due to mistakes in onboarding their youthful employees who have a tendency to frequently job positions. Our incentive structure is not well suited to retaining them and our lack of WFH flexibility is partially to blame.
If junior employees are more likely to fail in remote and WFH settings, how can we help and support them more? In a low unemployment and high inflation environment, changing companies has never been so easy, and the financial benefits of doing so have never been so great. GenZ Workers are therefore highly incentivized to learn what they can from your company and quickly move on.
This has started a vicious cycle that is likely to persist into 2023. With the current software, fully remote companies just make building relationships across departments, levels (hierarchies) and teams more difficult than they would be in person. However for the majority of GenZ workers, that would not be occurring in any great abundance in person or at the office either.
If a GenZ workers will (tend) be gone in the next six to twelve months anyway, incentives for the company or the new employee to invest too much into the above process are limited at best.
GenZ workers at a cohort tend to show a much stronger connection to a future of work where work is more fluid, with freelancing, side gigs and other opportunities at the same time as a regular career. This means that this cohort may be invested in the usual office politics considerably less to get ahead, and will prefer to explore starting their own business or freelancing instead of fighting the generation gaps at an office they might not stick around in anyways.
What do you think?
Thanks for reading!